Why Chubb caught Warren Buffett’s eye

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When investors got wind of the news Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway added Chubb to its portfolio in May, the insurer became a new celebrity stock. 

The $6.72 billion stake of 25.9 million shares sent shares to an all-time high, and it’s currently trading just below that level. Buffett, known for buying companies for the long haul, puts Chubb in the ninth-largest position among his other marquee holdings, which include Coca-Cola, Apple and American Express.

While Buffett doesn’t explain why he buys or sells a particular stock when its disclosed, his past remarks give a sense of what he looks for, including companies considered “moats” unable to be matched or accessed by competitors. 

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“In business, I look for economic castles protected by unbreachable ‘moats,'” Buffett said in a 1995 letter to shareholders. At the time, he gave a shoutout to his insurance company Geico for holding that title. 

His love for the insurance business isn’t new. He owns Geico, repped by the likable green reptile and General Re. So, what does the Oracle of Omaha see in Chubb? 

Is it the company’s 1.4% annual dividend? Nope, according to CEO Evan Greenberg, son of legendary 99-year-old former AIG CEO and insurance industry pioneer Hank Greenberg.

“We are actually a low yielding stock. You don’t buy us for dividends. It’s about 1.4%, He’s not buying it for the dividend,” Greenberg explained during an interview on ‘The Claman Countdown’ last month. 

What Buffett likely sees, Greenberg suggests, is years ahead of steady upside for the insurer. 

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“We’re actually a growth company. Our earnings have been growing in double-digits for the last few years, and, as we look forward, we’ll continue robust earnings growth,” said Greenberg, who also touted the multiple streams of income the insurer is fielding in the U.S. and abroad. 

“We’re well diversified, property casualty/underwriting; one source of income. Our invested asset, as interest rates have risen and are at a rate than we’ve seen in a couple of decades. That’s another source of income,” he said. 

During the company’s first quarter, its pre-tax investment income rose over 25% to $1.39 billion, while adjusted net investment income jumped 23% to $1.48 billion. 

And then there’s Chubb’s bread and butter.  

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“We have a growing life insurance business in Asia. We are a global company, over 40% of business is outside the United States. We are the largest commercial insurer in the U.S., and 20% of our business is in Asia,” he said. 

Chubb shares have gained over 13% this year, slightly trailing the S&P 500’s 15%+ rise. Berkshire Hathaway is Chubb’s largest single shareholder, and Greenberg is the second, according to ThomsonOne.

The insurer is scheduled to report quarterly earnings July 24. 

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